The idea for Barbara Pryor’s pillow project started at a meeting of the Dunwoody Woman’s Club.

Back last winter, Pryor said, a speaker at one of the club’s regular monthly meetings talked about how volunteers made small square pillows for women who received breast cancer treatments at Northside Hospital.

Pryor thought that sounded like a nice thing to do. “It touched my heart,” the Dunwoody real estate saleswoman said.

She likes to sew. She started working with needle and thread when she was a young girl growing up in Sandy Springs. Back then, she made dresses for her dolls. She’d held on to some of her doll clothes; she keeps them in a box in her Dunwoody home.

Barbara Pryor contacted Northside Hospital to volunteer her sewing services. She now makes neck-bracing pillows for male patients who are undergoing  cancer treatments.
Barbara Pryor contacted Northside Hospital to volunteer her sewing services. She now makes neck-bracing pillows for male patients who are undergoing cancer treatments.

After the woman’s club speech, Pryor contacted the hospital to volunteer to make the pillows, she said, but a hospital official told her that Northside had plenty of the little square pillows for its women patients. What it needed, the official said, were larger, neck-bracing pillows to give to men patients who were sitting for long periods undergoing cancer treatments.

That suited Pryor. Making pillows, she said, would offer a way “to spread our love a little farther… [and to say], ‘Even if we don’t know you, we still care.’”

Pryor set to work. She copied the design of a neck pillow provided by the hospital and turned out 20 new pillows. Then, on July 4, in the down time between the Dunwoody Fourth of July parade and a family dinner, she cranked out another batch. She provided the hospital with 40 pillows.

“Northside is grateful for the support of individuals in the community like Barbara,” said Susan Casella, coordinator of breast health education and support services at Northside. “Her thoughtfulness is remarkable, and our patients are very appreciative.”

Pryor said she was simply trying to make someone’s day a little brighter. “This is something you can do to let people know you’re thinking about them,” she said. “All that positive energy can’t hurt.”

She’s used to tackling projects for others. In 2004, she started sending personal packages to soldiers in Iraq. She started after her daughter got an email from a soldier who was being deployed overseas and needed someone to watch her two cats. By the time the Pryors volunteered, the cats were taken care of. But the soldier asked them to stay in touch by email.

They did. After a while, Pryor sent the soldier a package of goodies from home. Soon, she was sending packages to other soldiers in combat zones. After a while, she was mailing packages to 20 or so soldiers four times a year, and recruiting help from her coworkers to assemble the boxes of toiletries, snacks, coffee and homemade cookies.

“I’m still sending ‘CARE packages,’” she said. “We still send them and I want to send them until we get [the soldiers] all home.”

Now she’s planning another round of pillow-making for Northside. She hopes to recruit some helpers so she can make more pillows and make them faster. Anyone who’s interested in helping can contact her at

How long will she make pillows for Northside’s cancer patients? “I have no reason to stop doing them,” she said. “I think if we get a little group of people, it can just expand. I don’t foresee stopping. Certainly, the need is going to be out there.”

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.